I picked up a S&W Model 19-9 with a 4.25" barrel in late 2021 with the hope of carrying this as my EDC gun. Today, I crossed the 5000 round threshold so I wanted to share some thoughts for any of you also looking into buying one of the new Model 19s or 66s from S&W. Specifically, I've shot 5248 rounds through this gun. 1274 of those rounds were 357 magnum, of which 779 were mid-range reloads. Of the remaining 3974 rounds of 38 special, 3416 were also reloads, though my 38 reloads tend to run a little warm (for a 38). I think I've fired less than 25 of these rounds in single action. I shoot this gun exclusively in double action and with maybe a quarter of that shooting .25-.33 splits.
The pictures below show some of the wear that has developed after these 5148 rounds.
The recoil shield:
Bluing worn off of the charge holes:
Some forcing cone erosion:
Flame cutting of the top-strap:
A little peening of the cylinder notches:
Cylinder stop almost looks like it's still new:
My sparknotes review is that this is a really great gun now
and is an improvement over the old K-frames. If you want a magnum K frame to shoot, the engineering on these is superior and you should get one of these over a vintage model. However, it's held back by S&W QC issues that affected it functionally and cosmetically. There are also some engineering compromises to might require you to clean it more often if you shoot lead bullets. Finding holsters that will accommodate the extra quarter inch of barrel is also a challenge. That being said, my solution now is to order my holsters from Doc Barranti. His Summer Classic is the holster I use when carrying this gun and really makes carrying full size revolvers comfortable and possible for a skinny guy like me.
Keep reading if you want additional details.
Out of the Box
Out of the box, this gun was unsatisfactory. It needed to be sent back to the factory as its front sight was loose and improperly installed. I don't have a picture of that but this Model 69 from this youtube video
has the exact same issue. The trigger out of the box was inconsistent due to a timing issue. The double action trigger was okay for four of the six charge holes but when pulling the double action trigger for two of the six charge holes, there was a noticeable wall. The Altamont stocks were too narrow and the checkering had no points to each diamond so the grip was too smooth. There were also sharp edges to the stocks. Overall, the stocks were extremely uncomfortable and irritating to use.
There were also some really nasty cosmetic issues that I was not able to get S&W to resolve.
The gun isn't all bad though. I like the retro style cylinder release that is nice and wide. I know purists hate the 2-piece barrel but if it's a way to put on the barrel shroud correctly while avoiding canted barrels, I think it's a worthwhile compromise. I also like that the cylinder locks up at the yoke and not at the tip of the ejector rod. I think this eliminates some vulnerabilities like having the ejector loosen during firing and locking the gun up. I think it also means the gun is less susceptible to issues associated with ejector rod runout. I also like that the tip of the ejector rod is now solid and a smooth surface so it's much more comfortable to use. The elimination of the flat weak spot on the forcing cone of the old K frames puts me at ease when shooting full power magnums.
Given some of the issues out of the box, I immediately changed the grips to Pachmayr gripper grips that gave me a much better purchase on the gun. The Pachmayrs also helped me shoot 357s more comfortably since they covered the backstrap. After 2317 rounds fired, I sent this off to Eli at TK Custom
for a basic action job and a sight change. The result was a smooth and consistent 10lb double action trigger and Eli was also kind enough to lightly chamfer the charge holes while he was at it. I also had the sights changed to XS standard dot sights. The factory sights were very hard to pick up in low light conditions, and especially if the color of the target was reddish or orange. The pictures below show the difference those make. It is now a much easier gun to shoot.
I'm kind of a middling shooter and many of you are far better shooters than me. I also shoot at an indoor range where I can't draw from the holster while shooting. Because of that restriction, my go-to skill check is the HiTS revolver super test
. Thanks to Eli's action job, I can consistently score around 175 as long as I do my part. My PB is a 179/180 so I'm still trying to crack that full score!
I think discussing reliability for any gun needs to be contextual. Out of the 5148 rounds fired, I only had two issues that I can't argue about: two light primer strikes. Both occurred when the gun was heavily fouled. I was able to determine that what happened was the fouling in the charge holes prevented the cartridge from fully seating and the impact force of the firing pin was spent on seating the cartridge all the way, pushing past the crud, and not on igniting the primer. Both primers were federal small pistol primers in my reloads and both fired when I fully seated them, pressing down with my thumb.
, that's not the end of the reliability discussion. The new K frame magnums eliminate the gas ring from the cylinder entirely. I experienced some consequences due to that. When I shot cast lead with traditional lubricant, the gun fouled very quickly and somewhere between 150-200 rounds, the cylinder would get so sluggish due to the buildup of lead particles and carbon fouling that it would be extremely difficult to pull the double action trigger. I've moved past this issue since I started using Hi-Tek coated bullets and I've never experienced this issue while shooting factory jacketed ammunition.
This is really what I'm getting at when I say reliability is contextual. I can very easily put a pin on when and how this gun will start experiencing issues: when it's dirty, especially when shooting lead reloads, and somewhere after the 150 round mark. Within that, and if I'm using quality jacketed ammunition or my defensive ammunition, I don't anticipate encountering problems. This is a very different approach to reliability than something like a semiautomatic pistol that intermittently experiences a failure to feed or eject: I think you can still have a reliable gun but it becomes a little bit harder to predict when you might run into problems. I forget if it was Chuck Haggard or Darryl Bolke who said this but within the number of rounds you might expect to shoot in a self defense encounter, the revolver has a higher likelihood of making it through those rounds trouble-free compared to a semiautomatic pistol. But that's just one of many many relevant and important factors when choosing a self defense handgun.
No gas rings here:
I think this is a great gun now
. The TK Custom action job and the new sights really elevate this gun and help it achieve its full potential. I can live with the cosmetic issues and after a bit of trial and error, I figured out ways to keep the gun running without a really annoying cleaning and maintenance schedule. I would absolutely recommend this gun with the caveats above. I really strongly believe that if you want a magnum K frame to be a shooter, these current production K frames are the ones to get. The engineering and durability are better and you will find more factory and aftermarket support. I hope this helps some of you all make an informed gun buying decision!